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I first contacted Autism East Midlands after seeing a plaque on the wall of my son’s college reception area. We moved to Derbyshire after our son secured an apprenticeship in his dream job.

Aubrey had attended Bicton College, in Devon, accruing a level 2 (with Distinction) and level 3 (with Merit) in Land Based Engineering. Aubrey has a diagnosis of High Functioning Autism, and this affected his apprenticeship with his colleagues. By the end of his training Aubrey was suffering from severe depression, including suicidal ideation. Typical of autistic people, Aubrey was able to keep the visual manifestation’s of his suffering well hidden. I believe that this enabled him to compartmentalise his distress, thus enabling him to complete his apprenticeship, with a college mentor who not only saw, but encouraged our son’s true potential.

As a result of Aubrey’s depression he did not work for nearly a year. During this time we started to look for employment, but were hypervigilant to not having a repeat of his last situation, which would be disastrous for him. As a mother and father we were at a loss.

At this juncture I contacted Autism East Midlands, I cannot describe my relief when I read the reply from one of their Employment Coaches, the sentence “I work with people with High Functioning Autism to find the right employment” is one which is embedded in the right hemisphere of my brain. Angela, our assigned employment coach, is someone who is acutely attuned to an individual’s perspective of life through her magnifying glass of experience and deep commitment. Her personality is such that she quickly embraced Aubrey’s autonomy aligning herself to his, thus bringing a collaborative working relationship to life. Aubrey looked forward to her visits. Through her veracity she was able to keep the fire of his potential alive, maintaining his desire to work again. If I’m honest, I felt envious of her ability, as any parent will understand, when you are not the ONE to fix all things for their child.

Angela helped Aubrey immensely, she would attend interviews, call to see how things were going between visits. The time the two of them spent huddled over laptops has turned out to be life changing for Aubrey, her presence here is fondly remembered. Without Autism East Midlands we feel our situation today would be very different.

We would like to applaud the work of the charity, there is so much more training needed for those who come alongside adults with HFA, especially in the workplace.